When a doctor runs for office in Saudi Arabia, her campaign gathers unexpected momentum in this assured drama by Wadjda director Haifaa Al Mansour
With oil no longer at the premium it was, and Saudi Arabia’s government reportedly compelled to make concessions to western-style novelties such as feminism, we have seen something of an opening up. In the movies, that has given us the work of Haifaa Al Mansour, the first woman to make a Saudi Arabian feature film with her widely admired 2012 debut, Wadjda, about a 10-year-old girl who enters a Koran-reading competition so she can buy a bike with the cash prize.
Now Al Mansour has directed and co-written this assured and watchable picture, which premiered last year in Venice: a political drama about a woman who runs for office quasi-accidentally, in the time-honoured style, and then finds her campaign gaining an unexpected momentum. No one in this film actually calls her the “perfect” candidate; an alternative title would have been just “The Candidate”, like Robert Redford in Michael Ritchie’s 1972 film, who is allowed to take a shot at political power because the powers-that-be are confident he hasn’t got a hope.